By Frances Clause
When Blessing Offor, season seven finalist on “The Voice,” had the opportunity to share his music and inspirational story at the forth Annual Eye Ball of the Mahoning Valley, he accepted.
Born in Nigeria with congenital glaucoma in his left eye and an accident that caused his retina to detach in his right eye at 10 years old, Offor has been blind since childhood.
Despite this, he has been performing for most of his life and has wowed audiences, including guests who attended the Eye Ball in the DeYor Performing Arts Center on Saturday.
“For me, music has been like a saving grace and something I grew with in some difficult times,” Offor said while playing the piano on stage. “Work is work, but when it’s something you have a passion for, you do something you love, which feels infinitely better.”
Sight for All United hosts this fundraising event to create support and awareness for the organization’s mission to help people in the Valley reach their visual potential.
Stephanie Champlin of Eye Care Associates said the adversity Offor has faced and his ability to overcome it made him the perfect guest artist for the Eye Ball to display its importance to the Valley.
“[The Eye Ball] helps give us funds to provide surgery, eye exams and glasses for children and adults, “ she said. “Through donations, [Sight for All United] has been able to serve over 800 people in the tri-county community.”
Since 2016, Sight for All United’s programs have enabled community members in need to receive glasses for $10 a pair and developed city school vision programs that include follow-up eye exams.
For Offor, this type of care he needed didn’t come so quickly when he lived in Nigeria.
“No one else in my family had glaucoma or any other eye condition, so when my dad figured this out, he went to a doctor,” Offor said. “[The doctor] said, ‘Mr. Offor, I can fix your son’s eye condition if you give me $1 million American dollars.’”
Offor’s only choice was to leave Nigeria and come to the U.S. Although this was difficult for his family, Offor said it was the best decision they could have made for him.
“[Medical professionals in the U.S.] did for me what Sight for All does for a lot of kids, which is making it possible for us to get things that we couldn’t have gotten on our own,” he said.
Through the collaboration of 40 eye doctors in the Valley and generous donations, care continues to be efficiently delivered to those in need. Youngstown State University students have also stepped in to help with the cause.
Saidah Yusuf, a senior biology major, has served as president of Students for Sight on campus for two years and interns for Sight for All United. These organizations work together, with students volunteering at other events Sight for All United plans.
“The goal is to raise awareness to the community about vision issues that not many people know about,” Yusuf said. “A lot of people need injections, cataract surgeries and medications, so we hope to raise funds for that [on campus.]”
To donate to Sight for All United’s $100,000 goal, visit donate.onecause.com/sfa/home.